"You don't run against a bloody stopwatch, do you hear? A runner runs against himself, against the best that's in him.... Against all the rottenness in the world. Against God, if you're good enough." - Bill Persons, fictional coach in Hugh Atkinson's "The Games"

A great quote from Hugh Atkinson's "The Games"

I suppose that most runners can relate to this school of thought.  There is not a lot of glory in running.  We lace up and pound out the miles running against ourselves; competing against our own minds and hearts and pushing ourselves to new highs.  There is a Zen quality to logging in mile after mile, each step besting the previous one.  Throw any of lifes challenges onto a runners back and they'll carry them to the finish line.  It's what they've been accustomed to do.  Runners share a mental toughness, that is cultivated from the relentless workouts in solitude.  Even at the competitive level there is not the level of glory as in other sports.  When I ran in the Cross Country NCAA's for Hunter College 17 years ago there were spectators at the starting line and finish line and a handful of people hooting and hollering in the woods at the tough points of the race.  The other 5 miles of the race were spent in an isolation of footsteps and heavy breathing.  Runners have a "Carpe Diem" outlook and an appetite for life.

After college I retired from running except for occassional fitness runs to stay in shape.  My open heart surgery and the complications afterward left an indellible mark on my "psyche", so I reverted back to what I knew best to quickly strengthen my mind and body -- running.  Only this time I needed something strong to fight back with, and prove to myself that I was not going to just take up space, but I was going to "live".  So I decided to run a marathon on the 1 year anniversary of my open heart surgery.

Tonights run was brutal.  We ran 12 miles.  I forgot how badly these distance runs broke you down in a healthy state, let alone after open heart surgery.  My sneakers felt like someone filled them with cement, and the muscles in my legs felt like hardened rubber bands ready to snap.  I felt like an old man running.  It's funny when you've been an athlete and had a reputation for being tough as nails your whole life people take it for granted.  You can't blame them because it's how they know you, but I assure you when you've gone through an open heart surgery or other major medical procedure THINGS ARE NOT THE SAME.  Nicole knew I was hurting tonight, but I don't think she could fathom just how badly I felt for the whole run.  I was beat up and mentally drained for the full 12 miles.  Maybe this is what keeps us going?  That people expect us to live up to who we are?  This is a good thing.  I don't think I've ever done a harder run or felt more terrible on a run in my life than I did tonight.  I guess I'm glad I didn't make it look so bad.

Carpe Diem! :)


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